Friday, December 29, 2017

December 28th, 2017: Hartford at Fordham (Fordham Holiday Classic)

Just the Facts, Ma'am: Fordham got off to a strong start and was never truly threatened in their 69-44 win over Hartford. G'mrice Davis had 21 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Rams, who also got 18 points from Johanna Klug and 17 points from Lauren Holden. Lindsey Abed and Darby Lee each had nine points to pace the Hawks.

For loud families, hitting the concession stand, piercing cold, injury concerns, paying attention to the little details, and boxing out, join your intrepid and partially frozen blogger after the jump.

So, how were all of your holidays? Mine were very nice, with lots of baked goods. But it's back on the grind now, and how best to round out the year but with a couple of double-headers? It's back to Fordham today, for the first day of the Fordham Holiday Classic. The Rams are first up, hosting the Hartford Hawks.

I don't know how I feel about the more aggressive Hawk on the warm-up shirts for Hartford. But I don't think the gray and black warm-up shirts work for them at all. Under Armour's usually pretty good, but this was a swing and a miss for them.

It is cold today. So very cold. So, so cold. I wondered why it felt like my legs were going to break off at the knee and my fingers were turning into small shriveled sausages, and then I saw it was 15 degrees out, so I guess that makes sense. Who approved this weather? I certainly didn't.

I have been warned that you can bring a kid for free to this game, so there will be very many children here. Fortunately, they mostly seem to be on the other side of the arena. I'll have to brave them at some point because they're over by the concession stand, but this too shall pass.

Oh, dear. Is that Mary Goulding in a cast? That's not a good thing. She's our glue player and so crucial to our frontcourt. That probably explains why Halei Gillis is back in uniform for the first time in a long time. (Speaking of Halei: pull your shorts down. That's a very nice tattoo, but I feel like I'm prying if I can see that much of it. At least it's outer thigh, not inner thigh like Kyra Dunn had.)

You can't say Fordham doesn't know how to pack the house- lots of kid-based promotions through this stretch of the season.

Anthem was nice, but trying too hard.

At halftime, Fordham is up 36-13. G'mrice Davis has 12 points and nine boards (including my favorite, an offensive spike right into the hands of Johanna Klug, who put it right back in the basket). I'm not thrilled with our boxing out- most of our fouls have been over-the-back reaching fouls on Hartford rebounders.

I have to admit, it's weird not seeing Rizzotti on the Hartford sidelines. I keep being like, "who is this person?"

My God, Hartford fans, or at least the fans and family who followed them to Fordham, are a whiny bunch. I realize there were calls that didn't go their way, but you'd think Halei Gillis was out there with a switchblade and a Joker grin from the sounds of them.

I was impressed with Hartford's halfcourt trap and press. They were able to use our slowdown tendencies to their advantage. When our ballhandling got sloppy, they capitalized.

I keep wondering if Brielle Wilborn is related to Amani Wilborn at Marquette, but probably not. She's a big post, who needs to work on her defensive positioning and her hands. That being said, the fifth foul called on her that took her out of the game was a ridiculously cheap call, which was rather a theme of the day. She's only a freshman; there's room for her to improve, if this coach knows how to teach fundamentals. Jada Lucas sneaked in at the end of the game, and I am drawing a complete blank even on what she looked like on the floor. I can usually at least summon up an appropriately sized silhouette wearing a jersey. Mary Pattison got her points in the second quarter, on a nice drive to the basket.

Jade Young might list as a guard, but she's got the kind of length that makes her very versatile- there were a couple of stretches where she was guarding G'mrice Davis and doing quite a nice job of it. I'm impressed with her toughness. Alexia Douglas saw more time in the second half than in the first, or at least it seemed that way. She broke out for some impressively fast breaks off steals. It was like foom! and she was gone.

Don't think I didn't see that shove in the back, Lindsey Abed. Don't think I didn't see you pushing on defense. She had a nice three-point shot once she got into a rhythm, and was one of the catalysts to their run to start the third quarter. I suspect she's the kind of player I would appreciate more if she weren't playing against my team. Sierra DaCosta brought speed, but her defense was inconsistent, which I think is why Hartford's coach relied so heavily on Young off the bench. She was the first one subbed out in the first half when Fordham started out with a 9-0 hole shot. I remember being surprised that Kelly Douglass spelled her last name that way, but I don't recall anything else particularly memorable about her.

I actually don't understand why Janelle Harrison was the player benched to start the second half so that Young could start. I'm not saying Young shouldn't have started, but I thought Harrison had a pretty solid game inside, starting strong on offense and staking out her space on defense. She rebounded reasonably well in the time that she was given (though she did have trouble with ceding position to smaller Fordham players, which might be the thing Hartford's coach was concerned about, given how well they boxed out in the second half). Darby Lee had some nice twisty moves inside (when you're getting compliments from Fordham fans, they're very good moves) but showed a propensity to foul on shots that were going in- I think she gave up two or three three-point plays that way. She's a tough cookie.

The thing about Fordham is if you get down to them, the odds are usually against you coming back, Penn State at home excepted (and that still rankles, almost physically, almost literally). The way Fordham milks the clock, and does a reasonably good job of forcing the opponent to take their time on offense, there's simply not enough time to put anything together.

The freshmen played! Oh joy! Oh ecstasy! Oh, the thrill of it all! Okay, so for the most part the deep bench is not ready for prime time, with shaky passing and weak shooting, but I actually like the chemistry they're developing together. They're going to be stuck with each other for a while, so that's probably a good idea. I still think Ralene Kwiatkowski needs to be worked into the rotation more- she's not great, but she's not terrible, and sometimes that's all you can ask for in your backup point guard, someone who can hold down the fort and not lose too much of a lead.

So because of the absence of Mary Goulding, we got an extended look at Halei Gillis. It's the first look in a while, since the preseason. There's a lot of work that needs to be done with her. She's a big girl with a big body, and seeing her all but cringe away from a rebound is not a good look. She did pull some down, but she was as likely to pick up the low-hanging fruit that the guards usually go after as she was to body up for a board. She has to move her feet and not her hands. I know she's a freshman and maybe I'm being hard on her, but it's going to be a long road to get her to where she needs to be, and I don't know if she's willing to get there, and I don't know if this staff can get her there. I love Zara Jillings's awareness of what's going on out on the floor- she saved Fordham a substitution late in the game when she corrected the foul count on Halei (a foul was announced as Halei's fifth when it was really her fourth, and Zara was right on top of it). She brought the defense and got low for rebounds.

Kendell Heremaia got the start in place of Mary, and I think that changed the dynamic of the offense. Kendell provides an additional ballhandling option, but we lose size. She looked a little tentative out there. Bre Cavanaugh couldn't buy a bucket, but she was rebounding so fiercely out there she and G'mrice accidentally tied each other up in something that would have been a held ball if they were on opposing teams and was technically a travel since they were teammates. I would also appreciate if people would not hit Bre in the head. There is a very good brain in that head and she's already had enough issues. Her hair, though fabulous, isn't quite fluffy enough to be an effective crash helmet. If Lauren Holden doesn't stop shooting threes from somewhere in the vicinity of Delaware Bay, I may throw something, and I'm not completely certain I won't actually be in Rose Hill when I do it. Just because you're from as south in Jersey as it is possible to be without being a mermaid does not mean you have to constantly shoot from there. I like when she uses the long ball as a more selective weapon, because it makes her more of a threat; if she's just going to throw it up, whatever, the opponent just might let her. I like when she drives, or when she drives and dishes.

Maybe Hartford was outmatched, but Johanna Klug looks like she might just have climbed over the freshman wall. She got good position down low and finished strong at the rim. She's not the fastest player on the floor, but she's big and she's tough. She smooshed DaCosta on a block. Like, smoooooosh. G'mrice Davis finished well at the rim and ripped down rebounds like her life depended on it. Someone seems to be out of place in the defensive scheme- I'm not sure if it's her or Halei, though. (Halei is... Halei... but I've seen too many communication issues with G on the floor to make me wonder.) She and Johanna had a nice two-man game going in the psot.

Pace of play continues to be a bugaboo, but Coach Gaitley certainly isn't going to change for me.

Officials were lax on contact for both teams, and the fifth fouls on both Johanna Klug and Brielle Wilborn were weaksauce calls. Those are not calls you make to foul someone out of a game.

I say this as a semi-professional ref-rider: Hartford, y'all need to chill.

If Johanna can be consistent in the post, we might just survive without Mary. But someone else has to step up too, to replace her leadership and her hustle. Maybe that's Kendell, maybe that's Zara, maybe that's Halei. I don't know.

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